for the Spain they believed to be better:
in Elne, the Swiss maternity home
Elisabeth Eidenbenz ( Wila, Switzerland - Zurich, 2011) was a young teacher, working in Switzerland and Denmark until she decided to join the Asociación de Ayuda a los Niños en Guerra ("Association to Aid Children in War").
From December 1939 to April 1944, Elisabeth Eidenbenz created in Château Bardou (Elne, South of France) an oasis where mothers could give birth in peace. In all, 597 babies of more than 20 nationalities were born at the château, which was operated by the Swiss Children’s Aid Society.
After the fall of the Spanish Republic many Republican exiles sought refuge in France. Many died of malnutrition, disease and other afflictions. Many pregnant woman were destined to lose their unborn children, or worse, die in childbirth. Elisabeth had arrived in Madrid in April 1937 as a volunteer as part of an aid team but had relocated to the South of France. Appalled by the situation of mothers and children amongst the refugees, Elizabeth decided to convert the Château Bardou, an abandoned mansion built in Elne in 1900, into a maternity home.
The group initially relied on voluntary donations from Europe, but after the start of World War II, funds dried up while refugees began to arrive from France and the rest of Europe. These were mainly Jewish women fleeing the Nazi occupation. Therefore, the group was forced to associate themselves with the Red Cross, and to abide by the policy of neutrality. This would have prevented them from sheltering political refugees, mostly Jews. It was therefore decided that the identity of most of the refugees would be hidden in order to circumvent these laws. They were harassed by the Gestapo and on one occasion detained. Some 400 Spanish children and 200 Jews from Europe were save throughout this period.
The Maternity home building was abandoned until in the 90s it was acquired by a craftsman to set up his stained glass shop. There he accidentally met in 2001 Guy Eckstein, a Jewish ancestor, who was one of the children who had been born there, and who told him the story of the building, unknown to him. Together they decided to look for the old nurse, and in 2002, the lost story in oblivion came to light when the city council decided to make an institutional tribute to Elisabeth Eidenbenz. Since then she has received several international distinctions. On July 2004, the city council announced the acquisition of the maternity, to conserve its memory.
These photos were taken in December 2015 and show some views of the Swiss Maternity home in Elne.